French fashion and luxury goods giant Chanel has just unveiled its first makeup line created specifically for men, reaffirming the continued growth and evolution of male beauty, and more specifically, male makeup.

The ‘Boy de Chanel’ range includes a tinted fluid foundation, a lip balm, and an eyebrow pencil and is set to launch in South Korea on 1 September. Not to be overlooked, choosing South Korea as Chanel’s initial launch market for this collection suggests it has also offered a major source of inspiration behind the collection – the elaborate beauty and grooming routines of South Korean men.

Unlike the relatively simple male grooming routines in the West, beauty products for men have an established position within South Korean culture. This offers a strong customer base for Chanel to launch a prestige, high-end beauty range for South Korean men to engage with, increasing the likelihood of product adoption and success. Similarly, this will allow Chanel to leverage its strong brand heritage and luxury credentials within beauty and fashion to offer a point of differentiation in the male beauty space. This can be expected to be well received given the already established beauty regimens evident among South Korean men.

In fact, according to GlobalData’s Q3 2018 primary consumer survey, 75% of South Korean males claim to do a beauty/grooming treatment at home at least once a week, compared with just 38% in Chanel’s home market of France. This not only validates Chanel’s choice for this market as the launch pad for its collection, but also highlights South Korea as a focal point of inspiration for beauty manufacturers worldwide seeking to release prestige male-targeted beauty and grooming products.

Chanel’s brand strategy

Chanel’s new strategy contrasts with that of mass brands, such as L’Oréal and Covergirl, which have recently enlisted male brand ambassadors in the West to promote their makeup. However they are yet to launch male-specific beauty products, rather they have sought to make their existing portfolios more inclusive.

Similarly, while it is still relatively rare for a prestige beauty player to cater to the needs of men, it is not unprecedented, with Tom Ford having launched a pioneering range of male cosmetics as early as 2013. Chanel has adopted this approach to offering luxury “beauty” solutions but focusing on markets where using male makeup is already the norm and therefore, investing in premium makeup products may have heightened appeal.

Looking ahead, ample opportunities remain for luxury brands to penetrate the relatively untapped male beauty space, particularly in the realm of colour cosmetics. Eastern markets will be a key platform for growth and for these brands, the success (or failure) of Chanel’s venture in the beauty innovation capital of the world will present a key indicator of the opportunity to invest in this trend.

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